Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.James is coming back to this same idea that he has been hitting on throughout the book. He first started commenting on the relationship between hearing and doing (James 1:19-27), and even makes a comment in chapter one that points out the worthlessness of religion if you don't keep a tight reign on your tongue (James 1:26). He then discusses the relationship of faith and deeds in chapter 2 (James 2:14-26). This kind of relationship between what is said and what is actually done is not just found in the book of James, it is scattered throughout scripture.
But I would like to get you to consider for a moment that this is not such an extreme teaching, instead, it is simply a statement of the obvious. Consider this verse: One could think that he is telling wise and understanding people to show it by their good life, but I think that this verse would be better understood if you believed that wise and understanding people DO show it by their good life. This is more of a statement to those people who might think of themselves as wise and understanding... when they're not!
I guess that the point that I am trying to make is that in every other area of life, what we believe determines what we do. We punch a timecard, not because we like printing little numbers on cards of paper, but because we believe something. We stay on the right side of the road (in America) because we believe that is the safest way to drive and we believe that most people are going to be following that same guideline. I take a drink when I am thirsty, because I believe that is a way to handle thirst. If someone said that they were thirsty and they said that they believed that taking drinks was a way to solve that problem, but they died of dehydration when they had a glass of water in their hands, we would either say that they didn't really believe that would solve the problem, or we would say that that person was an idiot. Does any of this make sense?
I might have to do another post later.